Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sonoma Preview: Can Hendrick Motorsports win a sixth straight Cup race?

Could Ambrose be the driver to stop the Hendrick win streak?
Jimmie Johnson’s first career win at Michigan on Sunday was his third win in the past four Sprint Cup races, and it was Hendrick Motorsports fifth straight win. Hard to believe it was only a month ago that Johnson had no wins through 11 races on the season. He’s been dropped down to 9/5 odds (Bet $100 to win $180) at the LVH SuperBook to win the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship.

Is Johnson just going to run away with this thing? It’s a lot tougher for him in this year’s Chase format because if he makes it the unofficial championship game at Homestead in the season finale, he’ll have to race three other drivers in a winner-take-all format. Whoever finishes best in that race among the four finalists will be crowned the champion.

Michigan was one of five tracks Johnson had never won on before Sunday. Now only four remain and Homestead is one of them.

I’m not rooting against Johnson to get his seventh championship, I’m just trying to make a case for someone else and keep hopes alive that Johnson isn’t going to just roll through the entire season with ease. Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski gave me some hope Sunday with comments after Sunday’s race and made a lot of sense.

“I think right now the Penske cars are probably the best when it comes to balance track to track,” Keselowski told reporters. “The Hendrick cars are probably the best where it takes power to run. These tracks (Michigan) are certainly one of those, and Kevin Harvick, his team is probably the fastest week in and week out.”

Harvick's team uses the Hendrick engines, which helps explain why he is so good this season. Even though Hendrick has won the past five races, we shouldn't forget about the Penske cars of Keselowski and Joey Logano - owners of three wins combined.

That horsepower advantage that Hendrick has will mean very little this weekend on the road course at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California, where it's more about the driver than any race on the season. Although, Hendrick's Jeff Gordon is one of the best road course drivers in NASCAR history with five wins at Sonoma and four others at Watkins Glen. However, the last time he won a road race was at Sonoma in 2006.

The No. 24 team used to spend a lot of time and effort into getting the perfect set-up for the two road courses, but because it represents only two races a season, they have used most of their efforts in the garage to perfecting their cars on down-force tracks, which is part of the reason why the entire Hendrick team, including Harvick's engine, is excelling right now.

Over the past nine seasons of racing at Sonoma there have been nine different winners. Prior to that stretch, it was the Gordon and Tony Stewart show as they combined to win seven of the previous nine. Some of the names that have won lately there aren’t typically known for their road course exploits. We’re at the point now where we have perhaps the greatest diversity on road course racing that we have ever seen. And we haven’t even seen road course ace Marcos Ambrose win here yet.

Read More Here....Top-5 Finish Prediction

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